1:44 p.m. EST
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I just have a quick update at the top on the Secretary’s travels, and then happy to open it up for questions.
As folks know, over the weekend and today Secretary Kerry continued his visit to the Middle East. He is on his way home. On Sunday in Amman, he met with King Abdullah of Jordan and Foreign Minister Judeh. Additionally on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, he met with Saudi King Abdullah and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. Topics of both of these meetings included Middle East peace and Syria. Today in Jerusalem, the Secretary met with opposition leader Herzog and Quartet Representative Tony Blair. And as I said, he is currently en route back to Washington, DC.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have – sorry about the Buckeyes, by the way.
MS. HARF: It’s okay. There’s always next year.
QUESTION: I say that all the time. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: One is: Where do things stand with the Iranians and the implementation agreement on the nuclear deal? And the second one is that the UN has announced today that the secretary general has sent out the invitations or is in the process now of sending out the invitations for Geneva II/Montreux. But the UN has also said that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov are going to meet on the 13th to talk about Iranian participation. So does that mean that --
MS. HARF: What does that mean?
QUESTION: Well, is that correct, and does that mean that someone – that perhaps today’s round of invitations that go out are not all of the invitations that will go out? Should I be holding my breath, waiting by my mailbox to see?
MS. HARF: Always, Matt.
No, on the first question – I think we talked about this a little over the holidays, and the holidays, I think, got in the way of some of these talks – we did make – we have made good progress in our discussions about implementation. The last step in the process was folks coming back to capitals for the holidays to consult on a few issues. Hopefully we’ll have some upcoming travel either this week or hopefully very soon for our folks, for our team to head back for additional discussions. And hopefully we can finalize it soon. We’re very close; we just have to finalize some of the details.
QUESTION: Okay. And then once it is finalized – if and when, but presuming that it is, presuming that it’s when and not if --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- that kicks off the six month.
MS. HARF: There will be a date as part of that. Correct.
QUESTION: All right. And then the second part on --
MS. HARF: Yes, on Syria. So I did see the secretary general announce they were sending invitations to Syrian and international participants today. This was the list of invitees that was determined at the December 20th trilateral meeting. So as we said at the time, a decision had not yet been made on Iran. So the invitations are going out for that list that they – that the UN announced in December.
In terms of Iran’s participation, Secretary Kerry reiterated our position that Iran would need to publicly accept the Geneva I communique in order to participate in the Geneva II conference. Again, no decision has been made on that. We’ll have some more details about his discussions and travel leading up to Geneva II coming shortly. But I think it’s fair to say that his discussions with the Russians will focus on Iran but on other Geneva II prep work as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, was the UN being premature in saying that they will meet on the 13th and that --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- the issue of Iran will be one of – at least one of --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- the things that they will --
MS. HARF: No. Not to my knowledge, no.
MS. HARF: We’ll just have more details. I don’t think everything’s finalized yet about the prep meetings --
MS. HARF: -- that he or other folks will have with the Russians. Yes.
QUESTION: All right. So without getting into specifics of date --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Right.
QUESTION: -- and venue and whatever, would you expect that whenever it is that the Secretary meets with Lavrov next, they will make a decision about Iranian participation, non-participation, observership – I don’t know, whatever?
MS. HARF: Well, they don’t decide on who to invite. The UN does.
QUESTION: Well, right.
MS. HARF: So they obviously give their opinions because we’re a key part of this conference and the planning for it. I’m sure it’ll be a topic of discussion. I don’t have a guess on when a decision might be made about Iran. Obviously, if it hasn’t been made by then, it’ll be a key topic of discussion.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Saudis are in agreement to have the Iranians participate if they do recognize the principles of Geneva I?
MS. HARF: I think you should probably ask the Saudis what their point of view is.
QUESTION: I understand, but you said that he discussed with the Saudis the Geneva II conference. Did he --
MS. HARF: Syria in general.
QUESTION: Syria, Syria in general. But are they in support of Geneva II? That’s one. And second, would they support it if Iran attends?
MS. HARF: Well, the Saudis are obviously a key part of this and they’re certainly in support of this process, the Geneva II process. Again, you’ll have to check with the Saudis in terms of where they stand on Iran’s participation. I don’t have more details to read out from their conversations beyond the fact that they talked about it generally.
QUESTION: Apart from Iran, I mean, talking about the Syrian opposition, who do you hope that’s going to be representing the Syrian opposition in the conference?
MS. HARF: Well, as I think folks know, right now the SOC general assembly is currently meeting in Istanbul. They’re engaged in ongoing discussions. I think we would caution anyone from getting ahead of those discussions. When they have details of their delegation to announce, they certainly will. We’ve certainly urged the SOC to form a fully representative delegation which includes women, obviously broadly representative, but those discussions are ongoing right now. I don’t have any preview on what they – what might come out of that.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: What about the Islamic Front? Sorry, Elise. What about the Islamic Front that you guys trying to open a dialogue with them a while ago? I mean, they are the force on the ground, so --
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve long said we’re open to talking to groups, including the Islamic Front, about what’s happening in Syria, about the way forward. I don’t have anything new on that to update since we talked about it a few weeks ago.
QUESTION: So how are you going to have the conference and everything is unplanned, if we don’t know who is going to represent the Syrian opposition?
MS. HARF: Well, we still have a little bit of time. As I said, they’re meeting right now in Istanbul, and hopefully they’ll be able to announce who will be representing them as soon as possible.
QUESTION: But then they already electing Ahmad al-Jarba to take a second term. He’s already been elected.
MS. HARF: Jarba.
MS. HARF: Yes. They did – I’m sorry, Elise, I’ll go to you in one second. But yes, on Saturday – I think Saturday was the 4th – they did reelect President Jarba as head of the Syrian coalition. Obviously, we’ve worked with him quite closely, look forward to continuing to work with him and his team. But beyond that, they’re just – the talks are ongoing and we’ll see what comes out of them.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to the original goals of the conference, which were?
MS. HARF: Well, the implementation of the Geneva I communique, which encompasses a wide variety of things, right?
QUESTION: But the main goal was, if I’m not – if I’m not mistaken, was to move towards a political transition in Syria.
MS. HARF: The main goal is to move towards and make progress towards a political transition. There’s other parts of the Geneva communique as well that we just don’t focus on as much here, including things like humanitarian access and things like that. But those are important --
QUESTION: But the main goal --
MS. HARF: -- as well.
QUESTION: -- was to make progress, if not set out a political transition in Syria. So with the situation on the ground as it is, and with I think even by your own public statements an acknowledgement that the Syrian opposition is nowhere near together on any of these elements, how do you propose to have a conference on a political transition in Syria when the only strong party it seems that’s coming to these talks are the very party that you think has absolutely no future in Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, but they play a role in putting in place a transitional government. If you’re talking about the Assad regime, they play a role in putting in place the transitional government. Again, the goal is to make progress towards this. We’ll see what comes out of the opposition’s general assembly meeting. They did, as I mentioned, reelect President Jarba, and hopefully they’ll announce a delegation soon.
But nobody thinks this is easy. Just because we say that we’re going to have a conference in --
QUESTION: I didn’t say it’s easy.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: But is it even possible to discuss a political transition when these guys are not in any shape to represent themselves --
MS. HARF: Well, I would take --
QUESTION: -- at the table?
MS. HARF: I would take issue with the notion that they’re not in any shape to represent themselves. Again, they have a president, they have leadership. There are challenges with cohesion among the opposition, we all know that. We’re not naive about that. But I think we do think, and our international partners like the Russians and the UN do think that it’s important to get everyone to the table, to get them sitting in the same place and starting to make progress on implementing the Geneva I communique, because that’s the only way forward here for the Syrian people.
QUESTION: How can you say that they are in shape or they are not? You can deny that they are not in shape to represent the Syrian people when, in fact, on the ground they are less and less relevant. I mean those who are fighting either the regime on the one side and the extremists on the other side, which you have basically called terrorists.
MS. HARF: Well, it’s a very complicated and complex situation on the ground. It’s not black and white. There’s no easy lines to draw here. But what we’ve said from the beginning is that the moderate opposition are the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, that the SOC is the one that will be representing them at Geneva II. And obviously, there are a lot of different factions and folks fighting different people on the ground there, but that’s exactly why we think it’s important to get a political solution, because indeed, the battlefield situation on the ground is complicated and incredibly dangerous and bloody, and there’s not any military solution here.
QUESTION: The SOC claimed that they will not participate unless there is a guarantee beforehand that Assad will step down.
MS. HARF: Well, I think we should wait and see what comes out of their own general assembly meeting that’s going on right now about Geneva II, and we’ll take a look at what they say coming out of it and I’m sure have some response to that later in the week.
Anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: Well, I just want to follow --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Are you saying – does that mean – the question was that they say they won’t participate in this conference unless it results in Assad leaving. That it’s --
MS. HARF: I think they’ve said a lot of different things over many months about the conference.
QUESTION: Right. But I just – but in terms of the Administration itself, Assad is still unacceptable, correct?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: And so you would expect that if – I know this is a hypothetical, but what you would like to see coming out of Geneva II is a process or at least progress on a political transition that would get Assad out. That’s correct?
MS. HARF: Correct. Well, under Geneva I, the communique, it’s by mutual consent, which --
MS. HARF: -- as we’ve always said, means no Assad.
QUESTION: Right. So – but that has not changed.
MS. HARF: Not changed, Matt.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Do you expect Geneva II to take a certain amount of time, a certain length of time? I mean, would you give it like two weeks, three weeks, 10 months, six months? And would Assad have to --
MS. HARF: I have no guess about that.
QUESTION: -- step down at the end of this process or at the end of the conference? I mean, how would you envision that?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of the conference which is designed to, in fact, make decisions on exactly those questions. Obviously, this is complicated and will take more time than anybody wants. We’ve already seen that with how long it’s taken to get this conference itself together. But that’s exactly what’s going to be addressed in Montreux and Geneva, and we’ll see what comes out of that.
QUESTION: Just --
QUESTION: Still on Syria.
QUESTION: It’ll take longer than anybody wants? I think that there are Swiss hoteliers that are very excited about the prospect.
QUESTION: Just to stay on Syria, I mean, if the conference is supposed to take place on the 22nd --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Start on the 22nd.
QUESTION: Right. Start on the 22nd. I just wanted to know: What do you base your optimism on? I mean, considering that if the opposition is saying that Assad cannot be part of the solution, do you believe even the Syrian delegation is going to accept this precondition to say Assad cannot be part of the deal and if the Iranians are going to be a participant or not? I just want to get a little bit of more of clear understanding why you are optimistic that everything is going to fall together in the end when you have the conference --
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I would use the term “optimistic.” I think the term is “realistic.”
QUESTION: Or realistic, even.
MS. HARF: It’s not optimistic because we know there are a lot of challenges, some of which we’ve already talked about today. But we do believe that on balance it’s good to get the parties to the table to work towards a political solution when folks agree about the parameters you’re operating under, right, the Geneva I communique. So as Matt said, the goal is to make progress on, put in place a process to get a political transition. Nobody thinks it’s going to be easy and nobody thinks it’s all going to fall in place on January 22nd. That’s just, I think, not based in reality if people think that’s going to happen. But all the parties, I think, understand how difficult it is, including the opposition.
QUESTION: But they don’t all agree on – they have different interpretations of what Geneva I means.
MS. HARF: Right. On the parameters.
QUESTION: The Assad regime --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: The Assad regime and presumably the Russians and others that – if Iran comes don’t believe that Assad having to leave is a precondition --
MS. HARF: Well, the Russians --
QUESTION: -- for Geneva I.
MS. HARF: Well, part of what Geneva II will be doing is, right, putting in place the communique, and I’m sure some of that will be melding different interpretations of what the Geneva I communique meant. But when I say parameters, I’m talking about the fact that the Russians have said we want to come to the table operating under the Geneva I communique, which everyone signed onto at Geneva I.
QUESTION: But I mean, how good is a communique if it has absolutely no reality in what’s going on on the ground?
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: I mean, you can have a communique that says that you should be the president of Syria. But I mean, nobody --
QUESTION: I’ll sign that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’ll sign it. (Laughter.) But --
MS. HARF: Then you’ll miss my briefings.
QUESTION: But I mean, neither the fighters on the ground, the extremists, or some of these other rebels or the local revolutionary councils that don’t seem to be really represented in the SOC are going to recognize a political transition even if you were to be able to come up with one.
MS. HARF: Well, the communique – it’s not that it’s not based in reality now. It’s a forward-looking document about what the ultimate goals are. And the purpose of the conference is to make progress towards those goals. So it’s not that right now Geneva I – that’s what the situation should look like on the ground. And when you’re talking about each of the specific tenets that are made up of the Geneva I communique, there’s a lot of different pieces to it and different people who would have responsibility for implementing them. If you talk about humanitarian access, for example, which we’ve talked about a lot in this room, that just depends on where we’re talking about, who’s in control of what routes, who can help secure that. So it’s not just one blanket statement that this isn’t going to work. It’s that there are different parts to this, different people have different responsibilities, and we need to get the parties to the table to make progress in all of those areas.
Now it’s really hard to do. Nobody’s – again, I keep saying this, but nobody’s naive about the challenges here. And that’s why we’re going there on the 22nd. We’ll work to see if we can make progress and go from there.
QUESTION: Yeah, just really, really briefly.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Geneva accord, the Geneva communique, is now about 18-months old, and I don’t think that you can argue that the situation on the ground has not changed significantly since it was – do you see or does the Administration see, or you’re not in a position to say, whether the Geneva – the communique needs to be revisited? You think that it is still, despite the changes of – on the – in the situation on the ground, it is still – as is, it is still what you need to go for?
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
MS. HARF: In part because of what I said to Elise, that it’s more of a forward-looking document, even though the situation on the ground has, of course, changed.
QUESTION: The main point of which is to have a transition --
MS. HARF: I’ll go (inaudible.)
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MS. HARF: It’s okay, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the same topic – transitional government? Is that the idea, to have to transition from violence into a new form of government?
MS. HARF: Well, right. I mean, the point of Geneva II is to put in place a process and make progress --
QUESTION: That’s the main point of Geneva I.
MS. HARF: -- on a transitional government. But I do think that we all need to look at the broader communique and all of the goals we have going into this conference as well.
QUESTION: Yeah. A senior State Department official has said today that Iran could show it wants to play a constructive role in the upcoming Syrian peace talks by urging the Damascus regime to halt bombardments of civilians and allow aid access. Do you expect the Iranians to do so before the conference, to invite them or what?
MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on that. Again, as I said, and the Secretary reiterated, that Iran would need to publicly accept the Geneva I communique in order to be considered for participation, particularly at the ministerial level, right, which is what the Secretary is involved in. There have been some talk out there that maybe they could participate at a lower level. I know there have been lots of rumors about that. Our view is, even at a lower level, Iran would need to demonstrate an interest and a willingness to play a constructive role in the process to even be considered to be a part of this. So I think when you referred to that senior State Department official today, I think they mentioned things like urging the Syrian regime to end bombardment of its own people, encouraging the regime to allow humanitarian access. These are things we’ve called on the Iranians to do since the beginning. This isn’t new.
QUESTION: What about withdrawing their own fighters from the conflict?
MS. HARF: That’s certainly another thing that could be done to demonstrate a willingness to play a more constructive role.
QUESTION: But should they be there at all if they’re – should they be there as a participant, not a party to the conference, meaning not --
MS. HARF: Not at the ministerial level.
QUESTION: Well, no. No, no, no. You have the opposition and you have – should it – should they be there as a party in the conflict? Because they seem to be having --
MS. HARF: Oh, in the conflict, not the conference. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, should they be there as a party in the conflict? Because you’ve all acknowledged that Iran has fighters in Syria.
MS. HARF: And that it’s incredibly destabilizing and that we don’t think that that is appropriate, and is only hurtful in terms of the conflict and ending it.
QUESTION: So how can they realistically participate in the conference if they’re a party to the conflict?
MS. HARF: Well, again, what I just said was even to consider them – and again, we don’t make the decision, the UN does – but at a lower level they would have to demonstrate that they would do things that would be more – less destructive in Syria. Some of those, as you mentioned, could include urging the Syrian regime – using their influence with the regime to end the bombardments --
QUESTION: But they’re helping with the bombardments.
MS. HARF: Exactly. I’m not saying they’re going to do it. I’m saying these are the types of things that, even to consider them at a lower level, we think they should demonstrate their willingness to play a more constructive role by doing it. I’m not saying they’re going to do it; I’m just saying when a senior State Department official made that comment, that’s what that person was referring to.
QUESTION: But Marie, those types of steps that you’re just talking about fall short of accepting the Geneva communique. So are you saying --
MS. HARF: And that’s why I said even at a lower level.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that to participate as – at the ministerial level, they have to accept Geneva communique (inaudible) --
MS. HARF: Which is full participation in the conference, period.
QUESTION: -- but to participate at a lower level – and I don’t know, does that mean at a lower level of official, or does that mean as like an observer or something like that?
MS. HARF: All --
QUESTION: All they have to do --
MS. HARF: Any of the – any or all of the above.
QUESTION: So – but they don’t have to accept the Geneva communique to do that at a lower level; all they have to do is do things that are less destructive, as you say? How about --
MS. HARF: Well, these are all ongoing discussions. And I said to even consider --
MS. HARF: -- them being allowed to participate at some sort of lower level. I didn’t say they should be allowed to.
QUESTION: No, I understand.
MS. HARF: So they’re – because a lot of people have talked about the difference if there’s maybe a way, because again, we’ve been very clear about the fact that they need – to be a participant in this conference, they need to accept the Geneva I communique. But there’s been a lot of talk about whether there’s a role. Those discussions are ongoing, and we’re making it clear that in our opinion – again, we’re not the deciders here – they should do some of these steps which, as Elise said, they haven’t done.
QUESTION: Right. I understand that you’re not the decider, but your opinion --
MS. HARF: Matters.
QUESTION: -- is going to go a long way in determining whether the UN invites them or not in any kind of role. But I just want to make this clear: To participate at the ministerial level, full-on participation --
MS. HARF: Full participant.
QUESTION: -- they have to accept the Geneva communique.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: For something less than that, they don’t necessarily have to accept the communique; all they have to – all that they would have to do to be considered --
MS. HARF: To be considered.
QUESTION: -- they would have to take these steps --
MS. HARF: But they might have to do other things. There’s a whole – and we’re not the only person with an opinion here.
QUESTION: And is the line that they have to do less destructive things, or that they actually have to do positive things?
MS. HARF: They would have to, as I said, indicate an interest and a willingness to play a more constructive role in the process to even be considered for a role.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. --
QUESTION: Do they still have time to play this role before the conference?
MS. HARF: The conference isn’t happening until the 22nd.
QUESTION: And – but in two weeks they can do?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I think some of these things – calling on the Syrian regime to end bombardment of civilians, calling on the regime to allow humanitarian access – we’ve been asking them to do that for months. They certainly could do that today if they wanted to.
QUESTION: But you are not calling --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) doing this so close to the scheduled date of the conference, does the U.S. have any indication from Tehran that it would be willing to consider doing any of these things, or is this just – otherwise why even raise this point since it’s been raised umpteen number of times before in recent months?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re raising it in part because there’s a lot of sort of churn out there about whether they could be invited in some sort of lower-level role. And so when folks say okay, could – would you consider this, obviously that’s not a full participant, that’s not the ministerial level. And so we’re saying, look, to even be considered, they should do x, y, and z at a minimum. But it’s not our decision. These discussions have been ongoing for months. We’re just getting to a crucial point now where a decision needs to be made on their participation. And so, obviously, there’s a lot of discussions going on about it right now.
QUESTION: The Assad regime insists that the Iranians must participate. Otherwise, they will not participate. Do you envision this conference going forward?
MS. HARF: Well, I believe the regime has already announced their participation and named their delegation before a decision has been made on Iran. So I think that ship has already sailed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the Geneva II will be held on the 22nd now?
MS. HARF: I have no reason to think it won’t be.
QUESTION: And where is the meeting will be held between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov?
MS. HARF: We’ll have more details on that at some point soon. I just don’t have them right now.
QUESTION: The UN is saying Paris. The United – I’m sorry, but UN sources say it will be in Paris. Can you confirm that?
MS. HARF: I’m not sure about that. I think there might be something in Paris, might be something somewhere else. I’m happy to get – I just don’t have all the details on travel yet, nothing to announce at this point. I know it’s been out there, though. So we’ll get you as many as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Marie, just to follow up on the humanitarian issues in Syria, are you aware that
Yarmouk refugee camp has been under siege and there are children and elderly people being starving to death. There’s horrifying pictures of people starving to death, actually. Is the U.S. doing anything to exercise some kind of pressure on the UN organizations, on the UN Security Council, even to allow certain access to the camp or providing food and medicine?
MS. HARF: I can check on that. I’m not familiar with all the details about our interactions with the camp or how humanitarian access gets in there. Obviously – so I can check with our folks and see if there’s an update.
Obviously, broadly speaking, we’ve repeatedly called on the regime and asked the Russians to – and others who have influence with the regime to allow humanitarian access to places they control. So, obviously, the UN and international organizations have a really tough challenge here. They’re operating in the middle of a civil war, a very dangerous war zone. That’s why we’ve asked people who do have influence – and I just mentioned that with Iran, but others – to help prod the regime to let us get more aid in.
QUESTION: Before we move on, I just – I want to – this just happened, so I just want to put it on your radar now, which is that the FBI has said that it’s made an arrest in the – you’re already aware of it?
MS. HARF: In what?
QUESTION: San Francisco.
MS. HARF: In San Francisco.
MS. HARF: I had heard a rumor about that. I think they’ll be doing a press conference on this maybe a little later.
QUESTION: All right. You don’t have anything to say --
MS. HARF: I don’t. No.
QUESTION: Do you expect that you will?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. Maybe. They do have the lead on this. I had just heard a rumor about this.
QUESTION: The consulate?
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the clashes between the FSA and the ISIS in Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly aware of the reports. I would note that these reports state that battles started as the Syrian people sort of rising up and rejecting ISIL. And you know, obviously, our longstanding policy on ISIL. I think in terms of what’s actually happening on the ground, it’s a very fluid situation. We’re still gathering all the facts about what’s actually happening, and right now don’t have more of a battlefield analysis for you on that situation.
Anything else on Syria?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The U.S. changed its stance from treating the case as that of an absconding maid to that of a trafficking offense and fraud. They are saying it on the basis of the – a bunch of emails The Times now has in its possession. And the dates don’t match also, like the OFM deputy director on – said that the State Department has terminated the maid services from – and then she was asked to leave 30 days from that termination, and so she should have left on July 22nd. But then I was told a few weeks ago by a senior State Department official that she had complained on July 9th. And so where do we stand today, like?
MS. HARF: Well, in general, there’s nothing new to report on this case. As I’ve said repeatedly, we’re focused on moving the relationship forward and letting the process play out. I’m aware of those press reports. As I’ve also said repeatedly, the State Department’s been in regular contact with the Government of India on this issue. I don’t have more further comment for you on diplomatic communications, but suffice to say what we’re focused on now is moving this forward, getting some resolution, and focusing on the relationship.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On that, today the – Vikram Doraiswami, Joint Secretary Americas, met – had a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell at South Block in Delhi, and he said no business as usual. And it seems he also said that it is your process and you are to sort it out. And so the – Delhi is putting its foot down, so what is your – you are saying that we are concentrating on moving forward, and they are saying no business as usual. So where do we stand today?
MS. HARF: Well, we stand where I just stood 30 seconds ago, that what we’re focused on is when the Indian Government has issues and wants to raise them with us, we discuss those in diplomatic channels because we know this has been a sensitive issue. But moving forward, we’re focused on the relationship. Again, nothing new to report today. And I’m not going to sort of do an analysis of every public comment that someone makes. We’re focused on overall how closely we work together and where we go from here.
QUESTION: This is not a public comment. It is a – it is with the U.S. ambassador.
MS. HARF: It’s a private comment?
QUESTION: It --
MS. HARF: If it’s not a public comment, then it’s a private comment. And as you know, I don’t comment on private diplomatic communications.
QUESTION: Okay. And the – okay, the last one is about the Pakistanis are supporting the Indian stand, and the Pakistani vice --
QUESTION: Anything to bring the two together. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Go ahead and --
QUESTION: The – and they – Pakistani high commissioner said that the Vienna Convention ought to be respected in letter and spirit by everybody, and he’s supporting and – so do you think that the Vienna Convention was violated in this case?
MS. HARF: No, we don’t, and I’ve said that from the beginning. But again, what we’re focused on isn’t going back over and re-litigating this case publicly. What we’re focused on is taking the relationship forward and letting the judicial and legal process play itself out.
QUESTION: Despite these comments that this gentlemen mentioned, have there any – have there been any incidents of the Indians halting cooperation with the U.S. on any programs or – I mean, even if they say it’s not business as usual, do you consider it to be --
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge, no.
QUESTION: Just follow --
QUESTION: Just one last one.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: The --
MS. HARF: And then you’re next. I promise. I promise.
QUESTION: That the Federal Human Resource Minister Shashi Tharoor, writing in an op-ed which will be published today, later in the day, he says that it was wrong to arrest her because she had full diplomatic immunity because she was an advisor to the UN. So what is your take on that?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I don’t want to go back over all the facts of this case. I said at the time she had consular immunity. We also said we were looking into the UN accreditation issue. Nothing’s changed on that front, but suffice to say, the legal process is working itself out. Hopefully we can get a resolution to it.
QUESTION: So there is not – no update, like, no --
MS. HARF: No update.
QUESTION: -- on that?
MS. HARF: On the process, right.
QUESTION: Many feels in India and here in the U.S. among the Indian American community that the issue has gone beyond, it should not have been. It should have been resolved peacefully, really, going from 2013 through 2014, and I hope that it will be resolved soon.
My question is here: Since she has been moved from the consulate to the UN, what changes the status why it has been done? And second, if India recalls her back to India, do you think she will be free to go from the UN to the airport, because maybe before it was not possible from the consulate to the airport?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve received the request for change in accreditation, but the process is ongoing and no official decision has been made yet to do that, so there’s no change in her status as of this point.
QUESTION: And --
MS. HARF: So those are all hypotheticals.
QUESTION: Right. But what is going on behind doors to resolve this issue? Because really, Indian American community is also not very happy what’s going on. This should have – should be resolved immediately, as soon as possible, because it may be affecting some relations here.
MS. HARF: Well, we want it to be resolved as soon as possible; certainly, that’s our goal. But we’re only part of this process. We’re the diplomatic part that focuses on the relationship and all the issues we work together on. There is a separate judicial and legal process that is working its way through right now. There’s a reason we have these processes, and hopefully that will work itself out soon as well, but I don’t want to get ahead of that process and certainly don’t want to speak for it.
QUESTION: And finally, India has a new ambassador here, just arrived.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: And it was not very good news for him, for a new ambassador to arrive with this drama going on. What do you think this new ambassador you are working on with – to resolve this and many other issues going on between the two countries?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the – and there have been a number of conversations with the new ambassador – but I think, again, we say the same thing privately that we say publicly: that there’s a lot of work we have to do, there’s a lot of business we have to get done together, a lot of issues we work very closely on economically, diplomatically. And that’s what’s important to us and that’s what’s important to do moving forward. And I have no reason to think that that won’t be the case.
QUESTION: And Madam, finally, where do you put the relations between U.S. and India today in beginning of this new year and beyond?
MS. HARF: In general?
MS. HARF: Well, as I’ve said, I think, many, many times throughout this whole ordeal, that we don’t want this to define our relationship going forward and don’t think that it will. And again, if you look throughout the region, if you look at Afghanistan, if you look at energy issues, economic issues, we have a whole host of things we work together on, and those are very important and shouldn’t be derailed by this incident. And that’s why, again, we are putting the process forward, we’re setting that aside, we’re letting it run its course, and we’re focused on where to go from here, because, as we’ve always said, the relationship with India is incredibly important, it’s vital, and that’s what we’re focused on.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Based on the diplomatic and judicial processes going on right now, how close or far we are from resolving this issue?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any predictions, guys. I know everybody wants to make them and me to look into a crystal ball, but I just don’t have any.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) hopeful that it will be resolved?
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Palestinian-Israeli issue?
MS. HARF: Yes, we can.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you give us an update as to what’s going on?
MS. HARF: I can. Let me pull that up. As you know, the Secretary just left. And as you heard him say, we made progress with both the Israelis and the Palestinians on a framework that would be the basis for negotiations moving forward. We all know these are tough issues with decades of history and mistrust behind them. And he said he – we always expected it would take time.
I think what’s significant about this period is that the parties are talking about all these core issues, whether it’s borders, security, other issues. And the Secretary also said that he had very positive, very serious, and very intensive – I think those were his words – conversations with both sides. Ambassador Indyk is staying on the ground, will continue working with both sides to continue to narrow the differences. We do believe that we’ve made progress, and on this trip indeed did narrow the gaps. But we still have some more to go.
QUESTION: Has he been able to broker a meeting between the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you on that. I know people talk about that, but nothing on that for you.
QUESTION: What is the --
QUESTION: Are you aware that --
MS. HARF: Wait, we’ll go around.
QUESTION: -- the Secretary may have – that the Israelis announced the destruction of certain buildings in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank? Do you know if this was part of the topic of discussion?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those specifics. Again, we don’t get into the specifics that are discussed between any of the parties.
QUESTION: And finally, are you aware of conflicting statements by the Palestinians, specifically the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat? I mean, he says something and done exactly the opposite.
MS. HARF: Is there a question?
QUESTION: On the progress. Yes, there is a question. I mean, is there something – is there --
MS. HARF: Have I seen them? What do I make of that?
QUESTION: I’m saying, is there – are there certain statement to be made public and certain statement that are made for the benefit of the Palestinian public, in this case?
MS. HARF: Well, as I’ve said, Said – and it’s a good question – what I’ve said is that what we’re focused on is the negotiations and what’s said in the room, what’s discussed in the room, and ultimately, what we agree to in the room. I’m not going to stand up here and do analysis on public comments by anybody involved here, other than to say we’re focused on what’s said at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: On the progress, can you just share with us the points or the categories where the progress was made? I know it’s a general thing to say we made some progress, but are we talking about certain issues? Because again, we’re hearing conflicting reports coming from the region that actually there was no agreement on any of the issues that have been --
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say there was agreement. I said we narrowed the gaps, but there are still some more gaps that remain, and we’re not going to go into details about where those gaps do remain because we think it would not be helpful to the process.
QUESTION: Is it still the Administration position that if a framework can be reached before the target, the end of April, that there could be some kind of an extension to get an actual treaty, final status agreement?
MS. HARF: Well, I know that’s certainly been an option that folks have discussed a little bit. What we’re focused on --
QUESTION: That still is an option, though, correct?
MS. HARF: I mean, I think I would say, yes, it’s still an option. But what we’re focused on right now is getting the framework done --
MS. HARF: -- which hopefully we’ll get done well before the end of April --
MS. HARF: -- and then we’ll all figure out how long it will take to get the --
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, the reason that I’m asking is because of some – because I think as part of some of the comments that Erekat made that Said was talking about in this interview that was published on Friday in which he said that the agreement that the Palestinians signed up for says nothing about going beyond the target – the nine-month target date, and there won’t be – not even one minute – and there won’t be anything after that. So that would seem to be at least problematic.
MS. HARF: But I think at times he actually says he was open to an extension, as has President Abbas, I think.
QUESTION: I know. All right. Another thing he said in those comments was that he fears for President Abbas’s life because the Israelis poisoned/killed Arafat, which – can I just get – what does the U.S. make of comments like that?
MS. HARF: Well, you probably won’t like this answer, but what I am not going to do is stand up here and do analysis on every public comment that someone makes.
QUESTION: Well, is it the U.S. --
MS. HARF: I’m just not.
QUESTION: What’s the U.S. understanding? Did the Israelis poison Arafat?
MS. HARF: That’s certainly not my understanding. I think we’ve addressed this many times in the past.
QUESTION: Okay. So when one – so when one side – and this gets back to my questions about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments standing next to Secretary Kerry last week, which you didn’t want to comment on. But when one side or when a senior official from one side gets up and says something that you believe is outrageously false, not correct, don’t you have – don’t you think that you have an obligation to come out and say, “Look, that’s wrong and that’s not helping the situation”?
MS. HARF: And as I’ve said, I do think we do, but we make those discussions private --
QUESTION: So what are --
MS. HARF: -- for a very good reason, that we’re not going to --
MS. HARF: -- get in a tit-for-tat publicly. If we have issues with things either side says or either side does, we have those discussions privately and keep them as a part of these private discussions because we think that’s the best way to make progress here.
QUESTION: You don’t – so you think that – so when the --
MS. HARF: So I’m not saying we don’t register complaints.
QUESTION: But the --
MS. HARF: I’m just saying we don’t always do it publicly.
QUESTION: Well, so what is the Arab-speaking public supposed to think, then, about the U.S. position about this if all you’re willing to do is to tell Erekat, “Don’t say things like this,” to say that to him privately? I don’t get it.
It would seem to me if that you give an interview to a major Arabic-language newspaper which is going to be read online and in print all over the region in which he asserts – the chief Palestinian negotiator asserts that Israel killed Arafat, and you guys don’t come out and publicly say, one, we don’t believe or we think or we know that that’s factually inaccurate; and two, this is not the kind of thing that’s going to get progress anywhere; or three, it’s certainly not the kind of thing that prepares or helps prepare the Palestinian people for what you hope will be an eventual peace deal. It gets back to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about incitement when he was standing next to Kerry. Either you believe that the prime minister is right and that this Palestinian official is wrong, or you don’t.
QUESTION: And what is the trouble with just --
QUESTION: And I think you have to say – you have to – but – and staying silent on it, I don’t see how – can you explain to me how it is that you think that helps?
MS. HARF: Well, publicly silent is different than privately silent. And again, nobody’s privately silent. If you’ve ever met the Secretary or Ambassador Indyk, nobody’s privately silent. In terms of the good – and then I will get back to – I think there was a question somewhere in there – that in terms of good faith, what we’re – how we judge that is that the parties remain at the table negotiating seriously and – no, but they do – seriously, substantively, and we’re making progress towards getting a framework. Going out and saying something in an interview is one thing, but what we’re focused on is, at the table, making progress on getting a framework in place, and then moving forward with the negotiations.
QUESTION: But how can you judge the sincerity of their negotiations if the minute the negotiations are done they leave the room and they’re trashing the other party publicly?
MS. HARF: Again, these are complicated issues. They’re sensitive issues. I’m not going to do an analysis of what everyone says publicly. We’re focused on what the parties do at the table.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not saying analysis. I’m – okay, so don’t analyze everyone, but let’s talk about a pattern on each side of sitting next to Secretary Kerry and telling him very nice things and being – making progress on these – on all these issues; and then the minute they leave the room, they completely trash both the process and the other party.
MS. HARF: Well, there’s a long history of mistrust on both sides.
QUESTION: So which is the real Israeli and which is the real Palestinian? The one that’s sitting --
MS. HARF: I think that’s a much bigger question, Elise, than we can address at this podium. Honestly, I do. What we can judge people on is their actions, what they do at the negotiating table --
QUESTION: Well, their actions – going out speaking very negatively against the other party is an action.
MS. HARF: I’m not saying we always welcome every time people go out and speak about this. That’s why we’ve purposefully made it quiet. And to be fair, I haven’t seen Mr. – Dr. Erekat – excuse me – his specific comments. I haven’t seen them. I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there’s a response.
What I am saying in general is that there’s a lot of churn out there, there’s a lot of people talking, and there – we always knew that would be the case. There always is. That’s why we have to focus on what we do at the table.
QUESTION: But if you’re an honest broker and you still claim to be an honest broker – “claim” is maybe the wrong word – you believe that you still are an honest broker in this.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Don’t you have an obligation to speak out when someone says something that is not honest, when something is dishonest? I don’t see how it – I don’t – you have to --
MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen – I actually haven’t seen those specific comments.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I can pull them up and read them to you, but he says that he’s worried about --
MS. HARF: I always like it when you do that.
QUESTION: -- President Abbas’s life because the Israelis killed Arafat, which, I mean, I just don’t understand why you think that it is – it would be not helpful to come out and --
MS. HARF: I’m not saying I’m not going to have a response to that. I, quite frankly, just hadn’t seen it.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: I’m not saying I don’t want to respond to that. What I am saying is that broadly speaking, sometimes we register complaints privately because we think it’s more effective to do it that way, and sometimes we come out publicly and say things as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Because it --
MS. HARF: But there’s also a difference between commenting when the Secretary is there on the ground having meetings than when he’s not. There’s obviously a delicate dance we’re all doing here.
QUESTION: Right, I understand.
MS. HARF: And I know you understand that.
QUESTION: But it seems to me that – like when the Israelis announce new settlements, you come out and publicly say you think it’s a bad idea. And I don’t understand why it is when the Palestinians say something that’s inflammatory, then --
MS. HARF: Well, it’s just not a one-to-one comparison.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: It’s not.
QUESTION: You’re – well, you’re right, because --
MS. HARF: Every situation is different.
QUESTION: That’s right, because the settlements actually change something on the ground; and the Palestinian comments, while they might be offensive to the Israelis and might be offensive to others, they don’t actually change the situation on the ground.
MS. HARF: Which is an argument for not always commenting on every public comment.
QUESTION: Well, but the point that --
MS. HARF: You just made my point for me.
QUESTION: No, because the point that Prime Minister Netanyahu made is that the Palestinians are not – the leadership is not preparing the Palestinian people for an eventual peace deal --
MS. HARF: And I --
QUESTION: -- and these kind of comments would not seem to be helpful in preparing --
MS. HARF: Again, I’ll take a look at these specific comments.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask one on --
MS. HARF: We’re moving on from this. Yes.
QUESTION: Back on the process. So apparently, the Foreign Minister Lieberman has opened a side track with Palestinian senior officials about the peace process, apparently, according to news reports, that Secretary Kerry is aware of them. Can you share with us if he is aware of them? That will include the transfer of – we’re talking about the 6.8 in terms of land transfer with the ’67 border?
MS. HARF: So what we’re --
QUESTION: But he talks about moving people from inside Israel proper to the new Palestinian --
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. What we’re focused on is the negotiations that the Secretary and Ambassador Indyk are leading between the two sides. I’d refer you to Foreign Minister Lieberman for his activities. But we have a process in place, and that’s what we’re working on.
QUESTION: Sure, but obviously, there was – they were including that – concluding, rather, that Secretary Kerry is aware of these (inaudible).
MS. HARF: I will check. I will check with the team and see if I have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Well, is something like that helpful?
QUESTION: Is it helpful or hurt --
MS. HARF: I don’t even want to venture to guess about details of something I don’t even know if it’s true --
QUESTION: So is --
MS. HARF: -- to know if it would or would not be helpful. We think the process that we have in place that we’re a part of, certainly that the two parties have come together in is the way to move forward here.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary having a good working relationship with the Foreign Minister Lieberman as, let’s say, opposed to the former Secretary of State who apparently shut out Mr. Lieberman completely?
MS. HARF: Well, I have no reason to believe that the Secretary does not have a good relationship with the new – now new, not new anymore, recently new – Foreign Minister Lieberman.
QUESTION: Did he meet with him on this trip?
MS. HARF: I can check and see if they did. I know he has in the past.
QUESTION: Just a quick clarification. Based on the emails that are in possession of Times now, can you confirm that there was a change in stand of the U.S. from deporting the maid to bringing her family here and arresting the diplomat?
MS. HARF: As I told you, I’m not going to comment on private diplomatic correspondence or do analysis of it or give any further comments on it.
QUESTION: And – it’s no more private. It’s – media has it, so --
MS. HARF: Well, it actually is still private technically, so I don’t have any comment on it.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The situation in Iraq is getting completely out of control. The government forces are prepared to assault Fallujah as we speak now, and there is talk that the U.S. may be relenting on the issue of drones to assist the Iraqi Government with drones in targeting the al-Qaida in Iraq, which is dire – in Iraq. Could you comment on all these issues?
MS. HARF: Well, yeah, let me just give you a couple quick updates on Iraq. It will, I think, answer some of your questions and I’m sure there are many more.
Obviously, we’re continuing to follow events in Anbar province very closely. We would note that a number of tribal leaders in Iraq have declared an open revolt against ISIL. Iraqi tribes, with support from Iraqi security forces, continue to successfully confront ISIL fighters in and around the city of Ramadi and to prepare to confront extremists in the city of Fallujah, as you mentioned. They have had some success, early success along these lines in Ramadi in repelling some of the extremists.
Yesterday, I think the White House provided a readout of a call between Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken and Iraqi National Security Advisor Fayyad. Just a couple quick words about some of the things we’re providing them. Obviously, we have an ongoing close partnership on counterterrorism issues, are absolutely standing by them to help them in this fight. We are continuing to accelerate our foreign military deliveries – FMS deliveries to Iraq, are looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring. These missiles are only one small element of a wholistic strategy here, but they have proven effective at denying ISIL safe haven zones it’s sought to establish in western Iraq. This is on top of the 75 Hellfires we delivered in December.
In addition to these, we will also be providing 10 ScanEagle surveillance UAVs in the upcoming weeks and 48 Raven surveillance UAVs later this year. So these are, for lack of a better term, surveillance drones. These will help the Iraqis track terrorist elements who are operating within the countries. We also obviously have another – a bunch of other things we’re providing to them. But we’re also continuing to advise and assist the Iraqis in developing strategies with the understanding that security operations only work in the long term if used with political initiatives and outreach to all of Iraq’s political leaders.
That’s kind of where things stand, but I’m sure you have many follow-ups.
QUESTION: Okay, yeah, a very quick follow-up. These – you said UAVs, but do you have anything on drones or that the U.S. might --
MS. HARF: Are you talking about armed drones? Because these are surveillance --
QUESTION: Yeah, armed drones. I mean --
MS. HARF: UAVs are, for lack of a better term, drones.
QUESTION: I understand. I understand it. Unmanned --
MS. HARF: Colloquially speaking.
QUESTION: Yes, I understand. But much as we have seen, let’s say, in Yemen or Pakistan, where drones can’t target terrorist camps or terrorist individuals and so on, there is talk that the U.S. may be taking that step in Iraq. Is that – was that something that the Secretary would support, for instance?
MS. HARF: Well, each country is very different. Fighting terrorists in each place is very different. I know there’s been a lot of rumors out there about this. Like I said, you can – people tend to focus on one type of assistance or another, but what we’re really focused on is providing assistance, working with the Iraqis to continue building their capacity, indeed, because this is the fight – a fight that they are going to have to have and that they are having right now, and we are certainly standing by to support them.
QUESTION: But certainly after so much investment in Iraq and so on, why not use such methods if they are proven to be effective in the past?
MS. HARF: Said, every --
QUESTION: Because you said --
MS. HARF: No, I think we should stop focusing on this --
QUESTION: You talked about so far this --
MS. HARF: -- because I’ve repeatedly answered that every country is different --
QUESTION: Okay, I understand.
MS. HARF: -- and that we’re not providing these.
QUESTION: Okay, fine.
QUESTION: The Secretary was rather emphatic in saying that U.S. forces would not be going back in --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- to help the Iraqi Government because there is no status of forces agreement that would allow any such deployment.
MS. HARF: For a whole host of reasons.
QUESTION: Right. Is he making this comment because of domestic political pressure for the U.S. to do something about Iraq, or was he making these comments because of any behind-the-scenes overtures from Maliki’s government about the need for robust assistance beyond what’s already spelled out in the SFA?
MS. HARF: I think he was making them, quite frankly, in response to a question. I don’t think there’s any sort of back story behind what led him to make these comments. I think he was making the point that what we’re seeing in Iraq is really longstanding sectarian tensions that we all are very familiar with, and they’re being exploited, quite frankly, by terrorists operating in Syria. These are the same groups. These are the same folks that are operating across the border. So obviously, there’s no long-term counterterrorism strategy that evolves – involves, excuse me – U.S. troops in Iraq. This is – when we left Iraq at the end of 2011, Iraq had an opportunity and they still have an opportunity to move away from violence, to choose their future. As they do, we will be a partner with them. But I think he was, quite frankly, just answering a question, a factual question about whether or not that’s under consideration.
QUESTION: And when you talk about sectarian tensions, are you talking about community versus community, Sunni versus Shia? Or are you talking about --
MS. HARF: All of the above.
QUESTION: Or about the political tensions that many have accused the Maliki government of aggravating in order to remain in power.
MS. HARF: Well, I’d say all of the above. It’s not black and white. It’s not as easy as just saying A versus B. There’s a lot of different groups, different factions, different parties on the ground. It’s very complicated. And that’s why we’ve said we’re encouraging moderates within
all of these different groups to step up, as we’ve seen them do in the past, take control of Iraq’s future. As they do, we will stand by them and help them in this fight, certainly. But it’s up to them to make these choices.
QUESTION: Well, what about --
QUESTION: Marie, there’s --
QUESTION: -- encouraging the government to end its heavy-handed tactics against Sunnis, which seem to be fueling a lot of these sectarian tensions which these extremists from al-Qaida are exploiting?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly, throughout many months, encouraged the Iraqi Government and all of Iraq’s political leaders from all parties to not do things that inflame sectarian tensions. That’s certainly an ongoing conversation.
QUESTION: Just to --
QUESTION: Well, but, I mean, what about more political inclusion of Sunnis in the government? Do you think that that would help kind of curb – well, at its very heart, this is a sectarian conflict that al-Qaida is exploiting. I mean, it might be an al-Qaida problem that’s your biggest threat and your biggest concern, but Iraq has a lot bigger problems, and a lot of people worry that it’s descending back into civil war. So, I mean, what can this government do to have more political inclusion to end these sectarian tensions?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any specifics to lay out for you. I’m happy to see if there are specific things we’re encouraging the government or other parties to do. But broadly speaking, from the beginning we’ve encouraged everyone to govern in an inclusive manner, to not take steps that would inflame sectarian tensions. We know there are incredible challenges that were there long before the United States was, and will remain long after. And that’s why we’re committed to being a partner with the Iraqi people and the government going forward.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, there’s been strong criticism of the performance of president – or Prime Minister Maliki towards the uprising in Anbar long before ISIS showed up. How do you guarantee that all these weapons that you’re giving to him to fight ISIS is not going to be used against his political opponent?
MS. HARF: In terms of what we’re selling to the Iraqi Government?
QUESTION: Yeah. All the assistance that he’s been asking them to combat ISIS --
MS. HARF: Well, it’s to the Iraqi Government. It’s not to any one person in the Iraqi Government. I should be clear about that. Obviously, we’re close partners with them. We work together on all these issues. I have no indication that anything we have given them is being used in any nefarious way. I’m happy to check with our folks.
QUESTION: But there’s no strings attached to it when you give them the --
MS. HARF: I’m not – oh, I’m not saying that at all. I don’t have all the details of the foreign military sales.
QUESTION: I see.
MS. HARF: I know that I would definitely disagree with the notion that there are no strings attached. I’m happy to get some more details about those strings.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure I – without wanting to go back into Friday’s discussion --
MS. HARF: Oh, why? It was so fun.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) The Secretary’s comments about no troops on the ground – it does certainly seem as though he was just answering a question, but I just want to make sure --
MS. HARF: Which he does, as you know.
QUESTION: Yes, exactly. But he said there’s no consideration of that. Was there any – was this ever an option that you’re aware of that was discussed at any – among --
MS. HARF: Like since we withdrew?
QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: No, I mean, since this got really, really bad.
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: There has never – so is it correct that there is no interest from the Administration side in trying to go back to the Iraqis and negotiate a SOFA? Is that --
MS. HARF: No interest. I mean, look, we were clear – going back to our discussion on Friday – throughout 2011 that under certain circumstances, we would consider maybe leaving some troops. The Iraqis were clear they had some certain circumstances that they cared about as well. But I would highlight that at the end of the day – and I think this is some of what you were getting at – we both agreed that it was in both of our countries’ best interests not to have U.S. troops there. So no – nothing I’ve heard at all, period, about going back and looking at that again.
QUESTION: And you would still argue that it is a – your statement that both sides agreed that it was in Iraq’s best interests --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- is it still your contention that --
MS. HARF: And we still stand by that.
QUESTION: -- right – that – well --
MS. HARF: That it was in our interest to withdraw all of our troops.
QUESTION: Right. But it – but so it was a – so it is a hypothetical question as far as you’re concerned, and one, really, that has no – there is no answer to that the situation would have been different had a SOFA been concluded now, the situation right now?
MS. HARF: The security situation?
MS. HARF: Well, I may --
QUESTION: There’s no way to know.
MS. HARF: Well, there’s no way, but I would make a few points. We have some historical points to point to. When we had 160,000 troops in the country, it didn’t negate sectarian tensions, it didn’t negate terrorist violence, certainly. So I think that’s point A. When we had 160,000 troops in Iraq, the border with Syria was still incredibly porous. There were still terrorists going back and forth on both sides. So I do think we have some historical precedent to point to here. And ultimately, we can’t impose outcomes here, right? So there’s no long-term CT strategy that says, okay, if we maybe had folks there today, we could have limited success, but for what, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years? Where does it end? That’s not a long-term solution. The long-term solution --
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know, 30 years is pretty good, no?
MS. HARF: The long-term solution --
QUESTION: Hell, 10 years would be nice, right? It’s been less than three --
MS. HARF: The long-term solution wasn’t to keep American troops there. It was to give the Iraqis the opportunity and help them build their capabilities to fight this fight themselves.
QUESTION: Okay. So – all right. That’s it. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Despite the current volatility, I mean, the country’s about to break up. There’s --
MS. HARF: You always have such --
QUESTION: No, no, but that’s exactly what is happening.
MS. HARF: -- like, sky-is-falling predictions about the world, Said.
QUESTION: It is – for the Iraqis, it probably is.
MS. HARF: Well, I just --
QUESTION: I mean, it’s – the north is about to break up. The south is the same way.
MS. HARF: I think you’re our most pessimistic reporter.
QUESTION: No, I’m saying that perhaps the time warrants reconsideration of a new SOFA. Don’t you think?
MS. HARF: No. Well, there’s no discussion of that underway. But let’s all take a step back. We don’t define our – as I said on Friday with Matt, we don’t define our relationship based on boots on the ground. We have an incredibly broad partnership. Just because there’s not a SOFA in place and there aren’t troops on the ground doesn’t mean we’re not actively working to help them fight al-Qaida today. In fact, the opposite’s true. And it’s not in our interest to have troops there litigating their internal sectarian strife and terrorist activity. What is in our interest is to engage diplomatically with assistance like I talked about to help them fight this fight and build their capability. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now.
QUESTION: Can I change topic?
MS. HARF: Anything else on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah. (Off-mike.)
MS. HARF: One more.
QUESTION: -- conversations --
MS. HARF: And then you can change the topic, yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any conversations you can tell us about? I think Secretary Kerry was supposed to be making calls on Middle East peace from the plane, but has he spoken with Maliki or talked to anybody about this you can say?
MS. HARF: Well, I have a couple – I can give you an update on some of the Secretary’s calls, but today Ambassador Beecroft in Baghdad met with National Security Advisor Fayyad, who of course Tony Blinken spoke with yesterday. He also spoke with Foreign Minister Zebari, I think, on the phone today. So folks on the ground are very engaged --
QUESTION: Sorry, who did? Beecroft?
MS. HARF: Ambassador Beecroft, yes. The Secretary, I don’t believe has made any calls to Iraqis today. He did, just to note, speak with South Sudan President Kiir not too long ago, and has made a smattering of other calls on Middle East peace as well.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the plane that he talked to (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: I don’t know if he was refueling or on the plane technically.
QUESTION: Okay, cool.
MS. HARF: I – en route back to Washington.
QUESTION: Sorry, a smattering?
MS. HARF: Yes, a few. How would you define smattering?
QUESTION: I don’t know. I just --
MS. HARF: My dictionary.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I just want to know – a smattering of --
QUESTION: A smattering --
MS. HARF: A group.
QUESTION: Who was among the smatterees?
MS. HARF: The Arab League secretary general, the UAE and the Qatari foreign ministers. And if there are others to share, I’m happy to.
QUESTION: Okay. And that was on Middle East peace, or Syria?
MS. HARF: I can get – I don’t have full readouts of the calls. I think both topics were probably going to be discussed.
QUESTION: Okay. So if – you agree countless is not 10, but smattering is two?
MS. HARF: I will look up smattering.
QUESTION: Smattering can be two?
MS. HARF: I said three. That was a grouping.
QUESTION: Sorry, I thought you said two.
MS. HARF: Arab League secretary general and the UAE and the Qatari foreign ministers.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: I don’t think that that’s a smattering.
QUESTION: And he called Kiir --
MS. HARF: Well, we can look up – what?
QUESTION: And he called Kiir.
MS. HARF: And he called --
MS. HARF: -- he called South Sudan President Kiir right before I came out.
QUESTION: Change the topic, please?
MS. HARF: I promised he’d have to change topics, and then you can change the topic after he does. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: Having fun, Elise?
QUESTION: I don’t know you are interested in this issue in the Korean Peninsula.
MS. HARF: Dennis Rodman? Are you asking me about Dennis Rodman? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, this going to be the last question. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I’m just kidding. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Yeah. South Korean foreign minister arrived – has already arrived this town, and Director Cho Tae-yong, who is in charge of the Korean Peninsula issue --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- met Secretary – oh, no – Special Representative Davies today. Yeah. First of all, they’re talking about North Korean issues. So what exactly the main agenda on this top – on this meeting? And they still have a gap between U.S. and North Korea and China as well. So what is the meeting today?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have a readout of that meeting. I’m happy to get one and see if we can share it later today or tomorrow. I know he’ll be having a bilateral with the Secretary, I think tomorrow is the 7th? That’s tomorrow.
QUESTION: Yeah. Tomorrow. Yeah.
MS. HARF: And we will have a readout of that as well.
QUESTION: And I know the U.S. position has not changed, but the – if these Six Party, the six countries, is going to start this talk, what exact condition the U.S. need for restart? If North Korea promise they stop missile test and the nuclear test, anything like that, they – if they promise – is that enough? Or the promise and the concrete action, is it --
MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve always said, the onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions towards denuclearization, refrain from provocations. I’m not going to further detail what those mean. They’ve, as I’ve said, committed on numerous occasions to denuclearize. We’re ready and committed to authentic and credible talks on this issue if they do take some steps. But I’m not going to further detail them.
QUESTION: The concrete action, is it different from concrete word promise?
MS. HARF: I think actions are different from words, but sometimes actions can be words, as I’m sure Matt’s going to say.
QUESTION: No, no. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: And again, I just don’t have further details about what that might look like.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about Dennis Rodman and his band of basketball players going to --
MS. HARF: I don’t think that I do. We haven’t been contacted by Mr. Rodman about his trip. We obviously recommend against all travel to North Korea by U.S. citizens.
QUESTION: I think he’s the only one – only person in the United States and like can meet – who can meet with Kim Jong-un. So it’s --
MS. HARF: Well, again --
QUESTION: I do want to ask you about some of his comments. He said, I think, something along the lines of, “I don’t want to save the world. I’m not here to save Kenneth Bae. That’s not my job.”
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I was just wondering if you had --
MS. HARF: If I have a response?
MS. HARF: Well, obviously, securing Kenneth Bae’s release is a top priority for us. We have said repeatedly that he needs to be returned home to his family, but Dennis Rodman is technically right. He’s not there as a representative of the U.S. Government trying to affect anything. We weren’t contacted by him and he’s not there representing us.
QUESTION: So you don’t expect anything?
MS. HARF: I just said Dennis Rodman is right. That’s – mark this down as a historic day for this podium.
MS. HARF: I just don’t know. We haven’t been in contact with him.
QUESTION: Do you have any message for Mr. Kim Jong-un? His birthday is tomorrow, I think.
MS. HARF: Do I have a birthday message for him?
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I don’t think I will at this point. Maybe Jen will tomorrow.
QUESTION: So my question is actually – my question actually isn’t too dissimilar from the question that’s already been asked.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: But I wanted to know if you could provide some kind of preview for the bilateral meeting tomorrow between Foreign Minister Yun and Secretary Kerry.
MS. HARF: I am happy to check with our folks and see if there’s more of a preview. Obviously, they’ll talk about a number of regional and global issues that they have talked about in the past, but I just don’t have more of a preview.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to preview what the Secretary may or may not say, but I think it would probably track very closely with what we’ve said publicly about this – focus, though, on where we go from here and the fact that we think it’s in the interest of all countries in the region to resolve their differences through dialogue, and we think that’s important to move forward. We know these are sensitive issues, obviously. But if there’s more of a preview, I’m happy to check with our folks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: On China, the arson attack on the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, there are news reports says that the suspect has already been arrested. Can you confirm this? And any new comment?
MS. HARF: I think the FBI will be speaking to this if they haven’t already. I’ll let them speak to it. And then if we have anything to add after that, I’m happy to comment.
QUESTION: And then last week you said that you are looking into whether any additional – more security is appropriate for the protection of the Chinese diplomatic facilities.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any update. As I said, I think, on Friday, we – security folks – the police department, I think, is providing 24-7 coverage of the consulate while the investigation was ongoing. I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there’s an update.
Yeah, I’ll go to you next. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: If you are decided – if you decided to provide additional security protection, will this security protection only apply to the consulate in San Francisco? Or will also apply to the embassies and other consulates?
MS. HARF: Well, we make security decisions based on the assessment of the threat. Again, I would refer you to the FBI. I don’t actually know what’s coming out of, sort of – who was or wasn’t arrested and what the situation is in terms of the investigation. I’m sure we’ll know more in the next few hours on this.
QUESTION: And last question.
MS. HARF: And then you get to follow up. Yes.
QUESTION: How about the repair cost of this consulate in San Francisco? Will the U.S. Government cover this repair cost?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I’m happy to look into who is going to bear the cost. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: Given there were already several attacks on the Chinese Consulate in U.S. in the past, the ambassador, Cui, also showed his concern last week in saying that he wanted to see more action or investigation, results from the U.S. side to ensure the security of the Chinese Consulate. What’s your response to that?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly – the U.S. Government writ large is required to take all steps to protect foreign diplomatic missions and their personnel – all appropriate steps. Our Diplomatic Security here works closely with the U.S. Secret Service Foreign Missions Branch in Washington, D.C., and then throughout the country with local police departments to ensure that law enforcement, as appropriate, protection is provided. We obviously make decisions based on a case-by-case basis, and if there are concerns or additional threats we always are happy to weigh in in terms of whether there should be additional security.
QUESTION: You said, but that’s case-by-case both by mission, i.e., Houston, San Francisco, New York, Chicago? Or by country?
MS. HARF: I think both.
MS. HARF: Yes. Scott. And then I’m coming back up to --
QUESTION: What sort of readout can you give us on the Salva Kiir call?
MS. HARF: I do not have a – it literally happened, I think, right before I came out here. I know that it was a fairly lengthy call. I’m happy to check in when I get off the podium and see.
A quick South Sudan update, in case folks are interested: Special Envoy Booth is in Ethiopia today to support the talks between the two parties, as he has been. He is pressing them to reach a ceasefire and ensure humanitarian access. As Secretary Kerry said on Sunday, these negotiations need to be serious and both sides need to listen to the region and the international community, because, of course, getting to the table is progress, but we also need a halt to the fighting on the ground. As I said, Ambassador Booth is very deeply engaged with this, and if I have more of a readout, I’m happy to provide it.
QUESTION: One of the issues here is the people who are detained in Juba.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Is it the view of the United States Government that these are alleged coup plotters who should face justice, or they’re members of the Riek Machar delegation who should be freed to go to Addis?
MS. HARF: The latter. We do believe that to be meaningful and productive, senior SPLM members currently detained in Juba need to be present for discussions on political issues which are happening in Addis. To help move these talks forward, we urge the Government of South Sudan to uphold its commitments and release political detainees immediately.
QUESTION: Presumably, the Secretary discussed that with – in his call?
MS. HARF: I would definitely assume so. Again, I’m happy to get a readout. It happened right before I came out.
QUESTION: Quite apart from the call, though, it appears that both sides in this situation are preparing for --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- major new fighting.
MS. HARF: Oh, major new – I thought you were going to say preparing for negotiations.
QUESTION: Well, no. It looks like as they’re – as these talks are trying to get underway, that they’re – that both are building up for some kind of – for some new violence. So I’m just wondering what you have to say about that.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have a recent battlefield assessment. Obviously, we’ve said – I’m just not sure what the situation is in terms of what you just asked about. What we’ve said is that we don’t believe this dispute can be resolved through violence and that they need to work towards getting these negotiations up and running. The group organizing them, IGAD, announced on – when we echoed on Saturday that the parties were at the table. They’re now negotiating the modalities of how these talks will move forward. But they need to move forward quickly because this can’t be solved through violence. And we’ve said that there are consequences --
MS. HARF: -- to this violence, certainly, both in terms of U.S. support and how the relationship looks like going forward.
QUESTION: When you say you don’t believe this can be solved through violence, that’s the same as saying you don’t believe there’s a military solution too?
MS. HARF: They’re similar.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So just --
MS. HARF: Well, not entirely. Are we talking about Syria?
QUESTION: You do – so there is – no.
QUESTION: There is a military --
QUESTION: There is a military – what was the – historically speaking, can you recall --
MS. HARF: What are you actually asking, Matt?
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. I wasn’t going to ask any of that. I just wanted to – because the phrasing was somewhat differently and I just wanted to --
MS. HARF: Yeah. They’re different situations.
QUESTION: I understand that, but you don’t believe there’s a military solution to either?
MS. HARF: Right, no.
QUESTION: Okay. So off the top of your head, then, when was the last time the United States thought that there was a military solution to a conflict? Do you know?
QUESTION: Well, when they went into Iraq and Afghanistan. It was only after 10 years that they realized what they --
QUESTION: I have a serious question.
MS. HARF: I’m going to refer you to my – oh, now it’s serious? Okay. Thank you for clarifying that now you are serious.
QUESTION: Well, no, no. That was more just kind of rhetorical.
MS. HARF: I’m just kidding.
QUESTION: Because I can’t – I mean, it seems like since World War II there hasn’t been a conflict that --
MS. HARF: We certainly believe, broadly speaking, that it’s better to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means, definitely, yes.
QUESTION: Yes. On Friday --
QUESTION: There’s only a military solution when you win.
QUESTION: Right, since World War II. On Friday, the Secretary put out a statement talking about the national day of --
QUESTION: -- a country in Southeast Asia --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that you used to insist on referring to as Burma. But this statement, both in the title --
MS. HARF: It said Myanmar.
QUESTION: -- and in the text called this country Myanmar.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So have you decided to change your – the nomenclature as it relates to this country?
MS. HARF: Well, it continues to be U.S. Government policy to refer to the country as Burma, but as you are aware, I think, in certain settings, U.S. Government officials refer to the country as Myanmar as a diplomatic courtesy. I think you saw when the President in the visit – sometimes we do use it. Obviously, I think a national day statement falls under that category.
QUESTION: Okay. But the President was actually there on the ground in this country --
MS. HARF: Right, what – right.
QUESTION: -- when he said it and this is --
MS. HARF: When you wish someone Happy Birthday, it’s a diplomatic courtesy.
QUESTION: Okay. So this does not reflect a decision by the Administration to start calling it --
MS. HARF: Continues to be U.S. Government policy. But again, in some diplomatic --
QUESTION: What – sorry, Burma continues to be U.S. --
MS. HARF: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: But U.S. still going to use – also as Burma?
MS. HARF: It’s – yes, as I just said, it’s official government policy to refer to the country as Burma, but in some diplomatic settings, as a courtesy, we use Myanmar.
QUESTION: But isn’t this confusing, really?
MS. HARF: I don’t think there’s a confusion. I think it’s pretty clear.
Elise, did you have something? Oh, go ahead.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: -- following up your statement you issued early this morning --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- you have called for fresh elections in Bangladesh. Do you think this – the new government formed after this election which you say is not credible and free and fair is a legitimate government? Are you planning to work with the new government?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been very clear about our strong concerns about the selection and what we think the way forward should be. We believe Bangladesh still has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to democracy by organizing free and fair elections that are credible in the eyes of the Bangladeshi people. We did note that we were disappointed by the recent parliamentary elections, especially because so many of the seats were uncontested or only had token opposition. Obviously, we believe going forward things should be done very differently.
QUESTION: Was there any – just to follow, sorry – any U.S. observers there --
MS. HARF: There were not.
QUESTION: -- to testify or to --
MS. HARF: There were not.
QUESTION: And what do you think (inaudible) Bangladesh – because this is the first time in many, many years that when – as far as democratic elections in Bangladesh are concerned, violence and demonstrations and all those kind of – took place because of past events between the two parties and groups and all – so forth. So what is the future, you think, now?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that Bangladesh still has a chance to have a different future, that we obviously condemn in the strongest terms the violence coming from all quarters, believe that violence has no place in a democratic process, and encourage Bangladesh going forward – the parties – all parties and all sides – to come together and move away from that kind of violence.
QUESTION: Has Bangladesh asked any – officially – any kind of help, or U.S. offered any help?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check with our folks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Marie, you said that there were no U.S. observers there?
MS. HARF: There were not.
QUESTION: Not even the Embassy? I mean, what are you basing your statement on if you didn’t have anyone on the ground?
MS. HARF: Let me see. I don’t believe there were any observers. Let me double-check on that.
QUESTION: Well, how do you know, then, that it was a bad election?
MS. HARF: Well, I think when we say observers, that’s people like at polling stations. What I base the statement on was that more than half of the seats were uncontested, and most of the remainder offered only token opposition. Obviously, you don’t need to have an observer at a polling place to see that.
QUESTION: Okay, so – right, but you’re referring to the – not necessarily the conduct of election day itself, but the overall --
MS. HARF: But there was also quite a bit of violence too, which obviously you don’t need observers at a polling station to see.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, I know, but usually you would play that off as “Oh, those are just press reports. We don’t have any independent confirmation here to -- ” Do you – can you check to see whether there were people from the Embassy who were out and about who actually saw some of this stuff, or are you just basing --
MS. HARF: I’m sure that is true. When I say “observers,” I mean not official folks at polling stations as election observers, but I’m happy to get some more details.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Scott, yes.
QUESTION: One more on Bangladesh.
MS. HARF: Wait, let me go to Scott and then I’ll come back to Bangladesh.
QUESTION: Marie, do you know if the United States is considering sanctions against Ukrainian officials who were involved in this recent violence against pro-EU activists?
MS. HARF: So we have spoken about this a little bit, more broadly speaking on sanctions, that all policy options are on the table including sanctions. I didn’t specify whether that was people or who that was. I’m happy to get an update from our folks, too. I know a little time has lapsed since we last talked about it.
QUESTION: So as far as you know, there hasn’t been any decision made?
MS. HARF: Correct. No, no decisions, but that’s an option on the table.
Yes, we’ll go back to Bangladesh.
QUESTION: There is some kind of coordination with the Indians on the Bangladesh issue?
And second --
MS. HARF: That we have with the Indians?
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I’m not aware, but I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: All right. And have you made any calls to the Bangladeshi Government expressing what we have said in the --
MS. HARF: I can check and see who’s made this known besides me saying it up here. The Secretary hasn’t, but I’m happy to check if other senior officials have.
QUESTION: And finally, given that you don’t consider this as a credible free and fair elections, are you planning to invoke your provisions of halting aids to Bangladesh?
MS. HARF: Well, this was parliamentary elections.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see what the future holds in terms of our relationship and what that might look like.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the – a visiting U.S. choir group who had to apologize and all that, on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t. Happy to check.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Thank you, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:57 p.m.)